Friday, June 25, 2010

How To One Man A Gaming Site

People think its impossible to run a gaming website singlehandedly. TNT couldn't be farther from the truth. Not only is it possible, it happens regularly, possibly on sites you frequent. But how cooed one person possibly do everything for a site entirely on their lonesome?

First, you must understand two main principles: first, they are only delivering editorial content, and second, they have financial backing.

Actually single-handedly running a game site is easy. All you need to do is report on games and gaming news, day in and day out. The hard part is finding a site that needs a one-man team, and trusts you to do it well enough to earn them money.

I offered this to someone awhile back, and explained that the best way to earn the most money is to find someone who can deliver unique content so that much larger sites would link to you constantly, while simultaneously creating stable and normal content so that you can grow your personal reader base. This isn't nearly as hard as it sounds. Standard content is easy: news, previews, reviews and events coverage are all things that, as a medium-sized website, one person can handle with ease.

Unique content is always more difficult, though a good writer with a deep imagination won't have any trouble with this at all. I myself have a file with nothing but ideas for possible game articles, and it's a growing list at that. Every time I have an idea, whether I can use it, implement it or write about it or not, it goes in. Someday, that idea will come to fruition, and for one of those ideas, it could be this week.

The point is simple: keep a steady stream of standardized content and a reoccurring unique article, perhaps that comes at a specific time. When your readers know what to expect and when to expect it, they will be there to consume it.

Of course, the best website would be one run not only by one individual, but by several. For gaming, I count at the bare minimum of five, and the only necessity is their location. There should be at least one person in each of these places: San Francisco, Seattle, New York, London and Japan (I know, Japan is not very specific).Why these cities? Because that's where the biggest gaming news comes from. (Japan, duh; San Fran is a huge port city with a lot of foreign developers with US offices, and Sony's gaming HQ; Seattle, close proximity to Microsoft, Nintendo and a ton of dev's; New York, closeness to some devs, but host to a wide variety of events, as well as plenty of hardware showings; London for all UK events and dev's). The numbers can differ, but a site like Kotaku clearly has the right idea. Cover all of the major gaming cities and you've got all-around coverage.

But, of course, Kotaku is a huge site that's really well funded. And they're growing. If you want to manhandle a gaming site on your own, you can't be dealing with the marketing, advertising, and anything that takes away from editorial or you won't ever have time to make the magic happen. Then again, if you don't have someone doing that already, chances are you won't be able to afford running a site on your own anyways...

Now, running a site on your own is still fairly easy. That said, sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything. That's why you need to plan ahead by creating an editorial calendar for all the content you have planned for the month, with contingency plans, and a small supply of freelancers who you can call upon should you require the assistance. That, or interns.

Picking the location of this person is also extremely important. If you live in the middle of nowhere and have limited access to events, you probably won't get very far unless you're really good or get flown around often on the publisher's bill. The farther you are from most companies, the more flying time it'll be, so living on the west coast for gaming is probably best. If you're in the UK, that's great and all, but if you run a British game site, you may want to consider hiring an American to run the site. America is lucky enough to get early access to most games (compared to everyone else), everyone speaks or reads English, and if he is good enough to understand the nuances of British dialect, then you're golden.

I only say this because I, for the most part, do understand that thanks to writing for a British magazine for a good eight months. It helped tremendously.

That's pretty much it. It's not all that hard at all. Just find someone who can write well, pay him enough to keep him happy and make sure he lives in a reasonable area. Then give him some discretionary funds so he can provide unique content and give him goals to reach. Give him access to your analytics so he can actively work on gaining readership. Remember, a writer just wants his ego soothed, to know that the highest number of people are reading his material. A good one will get that and make you money. A bad one...well, you'll get rid of him soon enough anyways.